Blaze The Convict Trail

Blaze The Convict Trail

Walk in the footsteps of Convicts on the Great North Road at Wisemans Ferry. Carved from Hawkesbury sandstone by chain gang convicts between 1826 and 1834, the road is a magnificent engineering achievement. Each sandstone block that helps form the massive buttressed walls beneath the road was shaped and placed with such precision that, with the exception of a few washaways, the walls still stand perfectly aligned, after 182 years.  Work commenced on the road in 1826 and at any one time up to 700 convicts worked on The Great North Road. The sandstone blocks they worked weighed up to 660 kilograms. Daily food rations for each convict were 450 grams of fresh or salt meat, 650 grams of flour or corn meal, 30 grams of sugar and 15 grams of salt. Convicts who'd committed any further offence since arriving in New South Wales wore leg irons. These weighed up to 6 kilograms and were applied by a blacksmith.

On the summit of Devines Hill you can see the remains of a stone quarry as well as Hangmans Cave. This cave, complete with a carved bench and steps, has a natural hole in its roof. Folklore in the region asserts that this hole made the cave a suitable place for hanging errant convicts. More likely, the cave provided storage for gunpowder or a resting place for guards.

On the lower sections of Devines Hill there are two examples of convict graffiti, which consist of initials carved high on the wall. The Great North Road's other significant sites include the remains of a well, building foundations, stocks and sandstone bridges including Clares Bridge which is the second oldest bridge in mainland Australia (the oldest is on Wisemans Ferry Road, near the start of Devines Hill). Clares Bridge was built between January and September 1830, and is named after overseer Arnold Clare, supervisor of the convicts who built the bridge.

There are signs provided by the National Parks and Wildlife Service that explain the road's unique features. Look out for other fascinating features along the walk, like convict-carved graffiti, the remains of a well, building foundations and stocks. The workmanship has even been recognised by the Australian Institute of Engineers as a significant construction.

How to Get There

On the northern side of the Hawkesbury River at the main car ferry, turn left (west) and, as you proceed, watch out for a road and gate on the right about 100 metres along. This road leads up Devines Hill, a section of the convict-built Great North Road. Don't miss walking along this piece of history. The view is enough reason to venture there, but it's the road's palpable history that is its strongest draw card.

Further Information

The Convict Trail »

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